Monday, November 10, 2008

Giving Thanks for Chefs' Menu Inspirations

Whether you’re doing all of the cooking at home, taking a dish to a gathering of family and friends or making restaurant reservations for your Thanksgiving dinner Atlanta area chefs offer some inspiring ideas to add a deliciously healthy twist to menu traditions.
While even this dietitian believes that Thanksgiving is not a day for dieting, it’s certainly smart to up the flavor appeal of holiday favorites with creative recipes that keep the calories down. Hey, if you skip the butter and brown sugar in your sweet potatoes you can have a bigger slice of pumpkin pie!
Celebrate with Seasonal Produce
Their first bit of advice is to remember the first Thanksgiving’s mission to celebrate and give thanks for a bountiful harvest. Executive Chef Christian Messier’s menu at The Sun Dial Restaurant at the Westin Peachtree Plaza is seasonally inspired year round so his Thanksgiving menu gives tribute to locally grown produce, “Salads are often overlooked in the melee of stuffing, braised meats, and roasted birds. It is a good time to take a step back from the norm and use some seasonal lighter fare.” Messier will toss an Apple and Winter Greens salad for guests served with goat cheese rolled in spiced pecans and a white balsamic vinaigrette made with fresh apples and Dijon mustard.
Sweet New Ideas
What Thanksgiving spread would be complete without sweet potatoes? But, this year why not forgo the miniature marshmallows and throttle back on the brown sugar and butter to savor and appreciate the natural sweetness of a roasted sweet potato? Chefs at Seasons 52, who specialize in creating just-as-tasty but lighter, lower calorie dishes are serving roasted sweet potatoes with a cumin lime vinaigrette and glaze roasted winter squash with apple cider. Chef Ron Eyester of Food 101 in Morningside gives whipped sweet potatoes a flavor kick with cinnamon and chipotle chile peppers. Sweet potatoes-one of the everyday darlings of dietitians because they’re rich in fiber and vitamin A- are on Executive Chef Carvel Grant Gould’s menu at Canoe restaurant almost year round. She suggests a departure from the usual roasting and mashing, “I slice them into long julienne strips along with some parsnips and rutabaga turnips prepared the same way. Then they’re sautéed in a non stick pan with some garlic and shallots for about four minutes until their tender but still have some texture. It’s a great accompaniment to turkey or any poultry.”
Exotic flavors from Southeast Asia transform the Thanksgiving menu at Spice Market in the W Hotel Midtown into a taste adventure. Why not shake up a few traditions by sprinkling on some interesting spices? Spice Market’s cranberry sauce is accented with fresh ginger and the pumpkin pie is served with an apple guava sorbet. Nutrition research shows that the more flavor appeal in a meal, the more satisfied we are with less. OK, so translated to Thanksgiving rules- you’ll only have one big helping instead of two!!
Freshening Up Menu Favorites
How would like to be expecting 500 guests for Thanksgiving dinner? Executive chef Fritz Doss of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta is ready for a big crowd with a huge spread from soup to nuts and all the trimmings. But, since he knows that a growing number of his guests give thanks for healthy fare as part of their everyday lifestyle including the holidays, he’s prepared a special menu of lighter takes on Thanksgiving favorites. The meal starts with a butternut squash soup with sage leaves made with chicken stock and only a little half and half. A salad of winter greens, fresh apples, dried cranberries and pecans is served with roasted pumpkin vinaigrette. Doss explains, “I roast the butternut squash for the soup and pumpkin for the salad dressing at a really high temperature to caramelize their natural sugars. It adds so much more flavor.” The turkey is brined with apple cider, maple and bourbon and served with port glazed pearl onions, cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes and organic spinach topped with a little Parmigianino regiano cheese. Of course Doss doesn’t forget dessert, “I’m preparing a lighter dessert of spiced poached pears. You can have it with a scoop of the maple walnut ice cream too if you like!”

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